Men, Women, and Gender in Cigarette Advertising
When cigarettes were initially advertised for women in the first decades of the twentieth century, the advertisements related smoking to changes in social custom such as shorter and more revealing dresses, dancing, and dating. By the mid-1920s, cigarette smoking among women had taken hold. Women in cigarette advertisements are always young and attractive. Often they exude sexuality as well. Even in ads for Virginia Slims, a brand created for women in 1968 that took advantage of the emerging women’s movement to promote its product, women remained feminine and fashionable and not a threat to gender roles.
Cigarette advertisements always featured attractive men, most often in suits, but from the 1960s on, advertisements also showed rugged men in outdoor settings. They were strong, physically fit, independent, decisive, and not communicative. The epitome of the manly man was the cowboy Marlboro Man of Marlboro Country who appealed to men working in offices or other ordinary jobs as an escapist fantasy.
Marlboro as a brand dated to the 1930s when it was marketed to women as a dainty cigarette with an “ivory tip.” (See above.) In 1954, Marlboro was given a complete makeover so that it would appeal to macho men. The cigarette was given a new filter and new packaging in a cardboard flip-top box with a new red-and white chevron design. At first various “outdoors” men with tattoos on their wrists appeared in the ads, but by 1962, the cowboy Marlboro Man prevailed. The Marlboro Man of Marlboro Country, strong, rugged, and independent, was one of the most successful cigarette campaigns ever.